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The setup for a letdown turned into a blowout in Big D.
The Warriors faced an unusual early-afternoon time slot, late morning on the West Coast. With heavy legs, they were confronting the highest-scoring team in the NBA. And they were without their second-most irreplaceable center Andrew Bogut.
Yawn. Shrug. Defend. Win. Again.
The Warriors responded to these challenges Saturday by marching into American Airlines Center in Dallas and walloping the Mavericks. The 105-98 final in their 15th consecutive victory is not indicative of what took place on the floor.
[INSTANT REPLAY: Warriors outrun Mavericks for 15th straight win]
"For 46 minutes of the game," said Stephen Curry, "we were in pretty good control."
The Warriors (20-2) jumped the Mavericks early, taking a 39-18 first-quarter lead by shooting 65.2 percent while holding Dallas to 31.6 percent. The Warriors maintained a double-digit lead, pushing it as high as 28, before late Mavericks rally narrowed the score.
"The first quarter did us in," Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle acknowledged.
The Warriors didn't just meet the challenges, they confronted with vigor. Knowing that Dallas (17-8) is a real threat, especially on its home court, they attacked early and effectively.
The victory allowed rookie coach Steve Kerr to rewrite his two-day-old entry in the NBA record book. After becoming the first coach to start his career 19-2, he's now the first to begin 20-2.
"They were motivated," Kerr said of his team. "We come in here and Dallas is the leading scoring team in the league and we've got this winning streak going. This is a pretty logical place for it to end. Speaking from an impartial standpoint, as an observer, I would say, `Yeah, this is going to be a tough one.' Our guys embraced that challenge."
Curry, who finished with a game-high 29 points, along with eight assists, relished the opportunity to compete with a playoff-caliber team from the deep and imposing Western Conference. The Warriors during their wins streak have been feasting mostly on teams with losing records.
"We obviously knew that they were the highest scoring team in the league to this point and it was impressive to hold them to 44 points in the first half," Curry said. "It gave us a chance.
"Obviously, on the road you never know, you never think they’re out of it because they have a pretty solid punch. They showed that in the third quarter when they tried to trim the lead. But we kept our composure for the most part and really held strong in the second half when they gave it all they had."
When the Mavs rose up for a comeback, Draymond Green was there to slap them back to the floor. The third-year forward finished with 20 points, including 8 in a 10-2 third-quarter rally that finished Dallas for good.
"He's our vocal leader," Kerr said, "and then he made the big plays to stave off that rally and that got us in good position again."
And with that, the Warriors left the heart of Texas still on a roll. No Bogut, no problem – not when everyone else is bringing such a firm defensive mentality.
The defense was ferocious early, when the Warriors sought to make a statement, and again late in that third quarter, when Dallas posed a threat.
Green's work: 20 points, eight rebounds, two blocked shots and nonstop defense.
Andre Iguodala's non-scoring line: seven rebounds, five assists and a block.
Klay Thompson's 3-point shooting was solid, 5-of-11. He moved past Tim Hardaway into third place on the Warriors all-time list, behind Curry and Jason Richardson.
The Warriors were beaten on the glass (53-45) by a team that, frankly, does not rebound particularly well. They missed Bogut inside.
Though the Mavericks offer the weakest 3-point defense in the league, the Warriors didn't exactly exploit it. They missed 22 of 32 from deep, including at least eight open looks.
A summation of Festus Ezeli's 17 minutes: 4 points, two rebounds and four fouls.
Iguodala's shot has deserted him again, as evidenced by his 0-for-4 shooting beyond the arc. After a late-November stretch during which he shot 10-of-19 on treys, he is 0-for-12 in December.
The Warriors dived, with gusto, into a rugged stretch of the schedule. Dallas is one of the three toughest opponents they've seen during the streak, the others being Chicago and Houston. They took a team capable of scoring 120 points, in its own house, and smashed it into submission.
They did it without the hammer of Bogut standing sentry in the paint, by exposing a soft Dallas perimeter defense and because these Warriors have a tenacity that runs well beneath their smooth veneer. This was a "we'll show everybody" game, and they did just that.